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Women’s IPL 2023: Brands want entry cost barrier to be set low for ensuring maximum participation spoke to multiple industry leaders from brands and agencies to identify the upcoming trends or opportunities that are going to drive Women’s IPL in 2023 and how they see the sporting event faring out in the country

Indian cricket board, BCCI, had earlier given its nod to Women’s IPL at its 91st Annual General Meeting, as the demands for conducting a women’s league had been gaining ground for years. It had also announced that the number of matches would also be increased for the five-teams Women’s IPL.

The announcement opened the gates to a lot of questions as to what the fervour for the Women’s sporting event in the category would be and how the ad land and the brand-verse will react to the new development. Thus, decided to speak to several industry players to identify and clear the air about what the audiences can expect from the upcoming Women’s IPL 2023.  

Bhairav Shanth

As per Bhairav Shanth, Co-Founder ITW Universe, “The cricket audiences in India are growing continuously, so much so that we have seen an exponential rise in women viewers growing 3.5 times from 2018 to 2019 compared to a 2.2x rise in men watching the sport. The female cricket viewers in India have grown from 292 million in 2016 to a projected 375 million viewers in 2022.”

“This shows rising interest in Women’s cricket and kudos to the BCCI for capitalising on this rising popularity to organise the Women’s IPL. We are sure to see a robust footfall for the WIPL, especially since in the last few years fans were robbed of a chance to see sporting events live,” he added.

Commenting on how are brands precepting and leveraging WIPL to meet their business goals, ITW’s Shanth said, “While it is still early days for the WIPL, with team announcements still pending, brands will be eager to capitalise on the growing popularity of not just women sports but also stars like Smriti Mandana, Jemima etc. Traditionally brands involved with Women’s sports have enjoyed a more favourable global perception and Cricket is no different.”

“The Women’s IPL will offer brands much wider access and recognisability in the form of Indian women cricketers - who besides a few of the top stars are not as prominent in The Hundred and Big Bash. A home-grown audience which relates to Indian stars will be a more attractive proposition for brands,” he emphasised further.  

Srinivas Rao

According to Srinivas Rao, Chief Investment Officer, Wavemaker India, “At an overall level, the uptake in women's cricket has not been that great. But now with the new ruling that has come from BCCI on equal pay for men and women cricketers during IPL, we sense it could be a big opportunity for women-centric brands who are trying to take a high ground with women’s cricket and IPL especially.

He also went on to highlight that the biggest hindrance for many brands these days is the entry cost of being associated with large properties like the Men’s IPL. 

Moreover, Rao also stated, “With the Women’s IPL, the assumption which we have right now is that the entry barrier would be much lesser, thus it will be easier for brands to come and not only participate in it as a sponsor but take the high ground and have their campaigns around it, especially the women-centric brands.”

Sahil Shah

Sahil Shah, Managing Partner, WATConsult also said, “It’s definitely a big step forward for cricket and BCCI, in general, to have done this. Many brands will be open to taking it up as it’s the first year and they will surely get a good deal, and if this sits well with their marketing plans as well as the messaging, then it will be a perfect opportunity.”

He also went on to state that he expects brands to go beyond just advertising and do something interesting with content and how they associate with this first-time-ever event. “The WIPL will also come around the time when a Bollywood movie about Jhulan Goswami (Indian cricketer) is releasing and Women's Day is coming up too. So, there could be some interesting integrations for brands across the whole first quarter of 2023,” he said.

Moving ahead, he also stated that in his opinion, the ad rates will be high as this is going to be the first edition of Women’s IPL in the country. “In fact, they will be very competitive to attract as many advertisers as possible. Brands will need the best rates to take this up for sure,” added Shah.

In the views of ITW’s Shaanth, “Women-centric brands will see the women’s IPL as a better fit for their marketing needs, while the proliferation of woman-centric or women-led companies in India will also find themselves interested in leveraging the popularity of cricket in the country. This is also likely to have a favourable impact in terms of the de-stigmatisation of women’s issues.”

“In IPL 2020, Rajasthan Royals collaborated with Niine Hygiene to address menstrual hygiene and promote the usage of sanitary napkins. Similarly, Women’s IPL can provide an even larger canvas to do such things,” he added.

Nishant Pitti

Adding a marketer’s angle to the development, Nishant Pitti, CEO and Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip, also pointed out that for marketers, events like WIPL will become significant in terms of providing a landscape to the masses for reach and brand recall via different partnerships, branding and sponsorship opportunities that sports events provide. 

He also went on to highlight that the women's IPL signifies a move towards gender parity, and the platform gives an advantage to women-led brands to appear on the world stage, creating awareness and interest amongst fans from across the world.

“It not only sets the purview but if explored intelligently it can open up certain avenues that are crucial for any brand thriving to reach its TG and beyond,” he said.

Moreover, he also pointed out that sports marketing can be high on ROI, especially, when it is done the right way. “As a brand that recently sponsored the Asia Cup and Road Safety World Series T20 Tournament Season 2, the traction we received was beyond expectations,” he asserted. 

Commenting on the current scenario of women’s cricket in India, Wavemaker’s Rao said that it might not be a very big thing as of now, but going forward, it could open up a big opportunity for brands. Slowly and steadily it is happening and although one might not see a lot of brands doing it currently, the beginning has already happened.

“If you look at the way men’s IPL has evolved, brands have campaigns all around the year using these associations with the teams and the cricketers. Thus, they can also work around a similar thing with Women’s IPL as well, especially the brands who are female-centric and have seen cricket but haven’t been there in a substantial way,” he added.

Similarly, WATConsult’s Shah also stated that women’s tournaments generally have less viewership than men’s and thus, they don’t attract many big advertisers. “But because this is cricket and IPL, I am sure it will do much better,” he said.

While expressing hope for the future of Women’s IPL 2023, ITW’s Shanth also said, “Since there are very few details other than the announcement of the league, there are no deals closed as of yet, but we are likely to see a lot of brands expressing their interest in being associated with WIPL.”

“Women’s sports has continually gained value and momentum with a burgeoning audience, thus brands will be keen to sponsor women’s sports because of its effect on their perception, as sports fans perceive sports sponsors to be more trustworthy industry leaders,” he stated.

Furthermore, Shanth also revealed that 82% of fans could recall at least one major brand from women’s sports and went ahead to peg hope that this trend could be worth keeping in mind with the women’s IPL in 2023.

When asked as to whether Women’s IPL could be at par with Men’s IPL, Rao highlighted that it is too soon for that to happen because when it comes to Men’s Cricket, it's considered to be more of a religion, thus for women’s cricket to reach that stature, there’s still time.

“From a viewership point of view, the gap might reduce over a period of time, but from the spectacle of advertising revenue, there will be a huge gap between the two. I don’t see that getting bridged in the near future” Rao asserted.

Moreover, WATConsult’s Shah emphasised that the audience for WIPL 2023 will still be predominantly male and that too, the ones who are deep into cricket as a sport will be the early adopters. Due to this, there will not be any limit on the kind of category or brands that will be advertising, he stated.

“The first year’s impact will be very less as it still needs to build itself as a league and get viewers hooked first. Some brands that are in growth mode or want to capture a certain set of TG in a pre-IPL season will look forward to investing for sure,” added Shah.

Similarly, Shah also stated that comparing men’s IPL to this new league would not be right as the men’s league is highly driven by celebrity cricketers and over a decade-old IPL fandom.  

Moreover, with the kickstarting of Women’s IPL, the brands who will be coming on board initially, with their campaigns or ambassador roles, might also get very good deals when it comes to sponsorships, Rao suggested.

Speaking about the ad-slots durations for T20 matches in India, Wavemaker’s Rao also pointed out that when it comes to T20 cricket, the ideal duration which seems pretty effective is the 20-second duration as it enables the brands to be there across the match with a good amount of visibility, but helps the brands to tell the viewers their story effectively. “I guess the same should be followed for Women’s IPL as well,” he said.

Additionally, Rao also emphasised that Women’s IPL 2023 could well be the pinnacle of women’s sports in India because cricket is the biggest sport in India. “If you look at it currently, in terms of the buzz or the conversations that have happened on social media, it's pretty high when it comes to Women’s cricket. It would be right on top in terms of rising popularity in my opinion especially because of the pay-parity announcement and more and more females wanting to take up cricket as a profession, the popularity is bound to increase,” he said. 

On a concluding note, ITW’s Shaanth also stated that brands like Hero Moto Corp, LIC, Odisha Tourism, etc. acted as sponsors for the recently concluded FIFA U17 WC. In women’s cricket too, ICC’s sponsors like Bira91, Coca-Cola and Upstox amongst many others are the ones who also supported the Women’s Cricket World Cup.

“Thus, the trend for brands regardless of the sport or gender has been to come up with more innovative engagement tactics, while on-air advertising will be a huge draw as always. There is an increased interest in on-ground activations and branding as a way to engage with potential customers,” he stated.

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